After eight years of Bushenomics we were all ready for change, yes? Obama got more votes for president than any other candidate in history, because a lot of people were ready for change, and Obama made change the central pillar of his campaign. But four years later have we gotten it? We are still fighting wars in the Middle East we can not win; we are still handing blank checks to businesses that went bankrupt; we are still treating environmental disasters like inconveniences for a corporation rather than the natural disaster it is (According to the August 2010 issue of Harper's Magazine, citing The Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, Obama received more contributions from BP than any other politician between 2004-2009.) We are still the only country in the industrialized world that does not provide health care for its citizens. And the unemployment rate is approaching ten percent. Change? Yes, there have been changes. But in real terms, as measured against the crises threatening the stability of the planet, the only real change has been the names on the doors. No, I'm not running for president. Or the US Senate or House or even Governor. But I am running for office. Anyone running for office has the ability to want change or not want change. To promise to work for change or not. To show signs that he means change, or to say one thing but act in ways suggesting that if he had twelve fingers he'd have six pairs of fingers crossed. A person running for dog catcher can see how the job can be done better. A person running for Maine Legislature can see lots of ways the Legislature can work better!
It is often true that we have few good choices in elections. I'm completely sympathetic to those who do not want to vote out of fear, who think that the lesser of evils is still evil. But we often have reasons to be fearful, and ignoring known risks is not smart. While Obama and too many Democrats have been too little different from the Republicans there are enough differences between Obama and Romney that in November I will vote to prevent a Romney presidency! And few even in the progressive community think that LePage is no worse than the alternatives, and now that they see what his leadership is doing may (hopefully) do what they prefer not to and vote to replace him even with a Big Box candidate. I have worked too hard too long to not understand that some compromises are absolutely necessary.
But this does not mean that we never have the freedom to support what we truly believe in. There are elections when we have the opportunity to vote for someone whose values match ours; who has the passion to work for those values. AND it is perfectly safe for us to support that person. Maine House District 115 is not the United States at large; it is not Maine at large. Maine House District 115 is a place where a Republican has no chance whatsoever of getting elected. A Republican in 115 has never gotten more than 29% and that was in a two-way race with no Green. The only time a Republican has beaten a Green in 115 is when the Republican campaigned hard and the Green did not campaign at all, and even then the Republican lost by a landslide. In 2010 I was a first time candidate, having never run for office before, and I beat the Republican by 10%. This time, there is not even a Republican on the ballot. The race really, truly, completely is between me and the Democrat. There is no fear whatsoever that a vote for me will turn the district Republican, there is only the opportunity to safely vote for someone better than you are used to.
For 25 years I have worked on a wide range of issues in Maine, in almost all the ways that issues can be worked on. I have worked on human rights, I have worked on the environment, I have worked on health care, as a lawyer I have helped the poor. I have collected signatures, handed out leaflets, organized rallies, served on the boards of non-profit organizations, worked for candidates (I worked on current Portland mayor Michael Brennan's campaign for US House in 2008). I know the facts, I know what needs to be done, and I know how to do it.
I am not going to run one way and govern another. I will not run away from issues, I will tell you clearly what I think is important and why. I will invite my constituents to tell me what they think and when I am wrong I will be glad to learn it and change my views accordingly. But I will not go with prevailing winds, whether those winds come from voters or a political party - I will be guided by principles. Read my position papers to learn what I want to do in Augusta. I don't just say that I want changes, for over 25 years I have been working for those changes in Maine. You are going to get what you expect from me, and that is commitment and integrity. There are other candidates in this Legislative race. Do you know what they stand for? Do you know what they know? Do they have a fire inside them that has kept them working on issues for decades? Do you know anything about them other than the political party they belong to?
When I was collecting clean elections funds an indignant householder told me that Greens stand for chaos and he'd never, ever vote for a Green Party candidate. Really? The Green Party has enough power to cause chaos? Yes, some Green Party members did get elected to the Portland City Council and the Portland School Board, and perhaps some of those Greens did not vote or debate in ways some people would have preferred. But people will hold a candidate responsible for what some members of his Party did? or might do? You're head over heels in love with what the Democrats as a monolithic entity have been doing? I don't claim to be perfect; I do claim to have principles. Hold me accountable for my principles and my failure to uphold them, if that should happen (and I promise you I will try not to let it happen!) But opposing me because I have chosen to identify myself with a party that does have principles does not make great sense to me.
We are at the proverbial crossroads. Politics as usual does not work. Change for the sake of change does not work - that was what gave us LePage. What works is commitment to principle, knowledge, passion, and an understanding of when to compromise and when not to. When elected I expect to be caucusing most of the time with the Democrats. But I will have the independence to stand apart from the Democrats when they are wrong. When they do not offer enough of an alternative to the LePage meanness. If electing Democrats is as high as you aim for then don't vote for me. If a strong candidate who shares your values and will work for them seems like a better choice then help send that voice to Augusta.
| Seth Berner for Maine Legislature in 2012!
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